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"We're Sinking! Everybody Up!"

March 3 - Southern Ocean

Southern Ocean sailing aboard movistar
Photo Pepe Ribes/

Yesterday morning was even more exciting than usual for the Volvo competitors, especially for those aboard movistar. Current reports suggest that damage to a fairing plate that controls water flow at the top of the keel, combined with the pressure of surfing through seas at 30 knots, caused cracks in the keel box which allowed water to pour into the boat at an alarming rate. Bouew Bekking's crew was able to contain the leak - at one point a crewmember was "diving underwater to connect the two emergency high capacity bilge pumps directly to the batteries" - and are on their way to Ushuaia after picking up an extra point at the scoring gate at Cape Horn.

Meanwhile, the rest of the fleet passed Cape Horn - with ABN AMRO One holding onto their lead - in a frustrating combination of no wind and big seas. Check out www.volvooceanracing.org for updates, and if you're interested in following the track of the boats in real-time, Google Earth is tracking the competitors' every move. Go to www.gearthblog.com and type Volvo into the search box. Very cool stuff!

Cape Horn is on the lower left side of the graphic; movistar is the dark blue boat at the Cape.

Norm Goldie in Trouble with Authorities in San Blas

March 3 - San Blas, Mexico

Norm Goldie, who moved from Brooklyn to San Blas, Mexico, nearly 30 years ago, has been one of the most controversial characters in the Mexican cruising scene for decades. Depending on who you talk to, he's been an invaluable help to scores of cruisers - see the letter in the March issue of Latitude 38 that came out Wednesday - or a big bully who tries to tell cruisers what to do by inferring he has some kind of law enforcement status with the Mexican government and/or some embassy position with the United States.

"Norm fools a lot of cruisers, but I caught onto him right away," says Celia Guiles of the Piver Victress 40 St. Brigid from Seattle, who was in San Blas for seven weeks with her husband Roger. "He'd say crazy stuff like 'Don't let Mexicans on your boat,' he interfered with cruisers trying to help other cruisers, told people not to use Roberto's free dinghy dock because Norm said he has mental problems and because his mother has tuberculosis or something, and threatened to close the estuary anchorage to cruisers."

"I saw right through Goldie from the very beginning," said Celia.

Those who don't care for Goldie will no doubt feel satisfaction in the front page story in the January 31 edition of Critica de San Blas newspaper, in which it's reported that Goldie has been accused of, according to a translation provided to 'Lectronic, trafficking in archaeological objects, possession of firearms, behaving in a selfish and illegal manner, and other irregularities.

Photos Latitude/Richard

Blue Blazes Takes Top Honors in San Diego to Puerto Vallarta Race

March 3 - Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Dennis Pennell's San Diego-based R/P 50 Blue Blazes took top honors in both Americap Division 3 and in fleet in the San Diego to Puerto Vallarta race, which, for most entries, ended with a slow crawl to the finish line.

Winds were relatively benign off the Baja coast - never reaching more than 20 knots according to several sources - making this one of the more pleasant southbound races in recent memory, albeit absent of record-breaking performances.

Although racing in the Performance Cruising B Division, which gives motoring allowances, it was a point of substantial national pride that Marco Rodriguez's Acapulco-based Beneteau 40.7 Iataia took line honors Monday, 36 minutes ahead of Blue Blazes, which had started a day later.

Shortly afterwards, however, the winds out of the Sea of Cortez shut down, leaving the third boat, Jim Gregory's Pt. Richmond-based Schumacher 50 Morpheus, stuck in a hole overnight. Others, farther up the line suffered a similar fates, dodging glassy holes until Wednesday afternoon.

Finishing 1, 2 in Division 1 were Mike Campbell and Dale Williams' Dencho 70 Peligroso, and Dave James' maxi Scout Spirit. Dennis Conner's SC 70 Mongoose won Division 2, followed by John MacLaurin's Davidson 52 Pendragon. In Division 3, Morpheus took second behind Blue Blazes.

Although this was not a particularly dramatic PV race, a high-tech innovation made it more accessible than ever to enthusiasts back home. This was the first West Coast race to use the FIS Flagship tracking software, which gave both the race committee and armchair spectators an up-to-the-minute online view of each boat's progress (as in the image above). Each boat was fitted with a transponder which broadcasted its course, speed and position in real time, translating it to a color-keyed visual on the Flagship Web site.

As you will see if you check out http://fistracking.com/pv/index.html, the highly sophisticated display can be set to view a single boat's track, a single class's track or the entire fleet. Racers, of course, were forbidden to access this data.

Use of this technology is now being debated for the 2007 TransPac and other offshore races, and, if reaction to this trial is any indication, we'd bet the idea will eventually get a big thumbs up.

Geronimo's Next Record Attempt

March 3 - San Francisco

Photo Courtesy www.superyachting.com

Geronimo, Olivier de Kersauson's maxi-trimaran, is in the final stages of preparation for its assault on the 4,482 mile San Francisco to Yokohama record - 19 days, 15 hours - set by Steve Fossett in 1996 aboard Lakota. This latest record-setting attempt by de Kersauson - with the help of Super Yachting Challenge - is scheduled to start April 10, weather permitting. Should be quite a show.

Work Continues on Nautica Step at Santa Rosalillita

March 3 - Santa Rosalillita, Baja California

Santa Rosalillita, with the harbor breakwaters in the background

Fonatur's practically dead 'Escalera Nautica' (Nautical Stairway) project of a string of marinas down the West Coast of the Baja Peninsula is of questionable value to cruisers and Mexicans alike. However, work continues on the new harbor at out-of-the-way Santa Rosalillita, a sleepy fishing village in the middle of Baja California's Pacific Coast, within sight of Isla Cedros. Construction appears to be proceeding at a pace similar to that of the work on Hwy. 101 through Marin.

When these photos were taken last week, a crew of ten were finishing up paving the road, which leads across the peninsula to Bahia de Los Angeles on the Sea of Cortez side. The harbor entrance has not been dredged yet; locals say there's good surf there.

That's an osprey nest on top of the Escalera Nautica sign
Photos Jonathan Gutoff

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